The overarching focus of my research are ideas of community and identity. Much of our societal discord takes place at community boundaries where individuals cease to identify with one another, so I am interested in better understanding how and why these boundaries between communities exist, to what extent they are important, and how we can build bridges across and between them. In my research in disability studies, rhetoric of health and medicine, professional and technical communication, and WAC/WID, some of my underlying questions are: How are communities created? Who is included/left out when a community is formed? How do basic rhetorical and communicative acts (genres, composition practices, professional conferences, etc.) build and reinforce community boundaries? How can composition instruction help students navigate cross-disciplinary (e.g. FYC-to-major) and cross-institutional (e.g. university-to-industry) identity construction? How can we better acknowledge and support disadvantaged communities?

 

Current Work

 Photo credit:  Erin Cromer Twal

Photo credit: Erin Cromer Twal

DisserTation

My dissertation, Shifting from Pathology to Neurodiversity: The Rhetorical Construction of ADHD Accommodation Paradigms in the University, addresses the rhetorical positioning and identity construction of ADHD in the contemporary American university. In this project I analyze and critique two sets of texts -- diagnostic manuals dating from the 1960s and current psychological diagnostic tests -- that have contributed to the rhetorical construction of ADHD as a medical disorder requiring treatment to make up for perceived deficits. Through my analysis and critique, I demonstrate how the medicalization and pathologization of ADHD has been adopted by the contemporary university through accommodations offerings and diagnosis protocols, thus inscribing an expressly negative identity for college students with ADHD. I utilize this analysis as the basis for recommending that writing programs proactively institute accessibility practices at the level of course design, classroom environment and pedagogy rather than waiting for and reacting to institutionally prescribed accommodations. Portions of this project have been or will be presented at the 2017 ATTW Conference, the 2017 Triennial Kenneth Burke Conference, and the 2018 Conference on College Composition and Communication.

A full summary of my dissertation can be accessed here.

 

Writing Across the curriculum/Writing in the Disciplines (WAC/WID)

- In an article currently under review with Across the Disciplines, I report findings of an empirical study I conducted aimed at better understanding how to prepare first year composition (FYC) students for future disciplinary research-based writing tasks. In this study, I interviewed professors from 14 disciplines across campus to identify what kinds of source-based research papers they assign in their upper division courses, how they approach teaching them, and the skills and abilities they expect their students to have mastered prior to entering their courses. Through these interviews, I identify a series of conditionally generalizable skills around which writing program administrators (WPAs) can construct curricula and instructors can base pedagogy. Additionally, this study serves as a quasi-case study that WAC directors can replicate to better understand the local needs of their stakeholders, enabling them to create clearer transitions between general and disciplinary composition instruction. 

- I am currently collaborating with three colleagues on an article manuscript for The WAC Journal that discusses our experiences administering disciplinary writing programs (in animal science and mechanical engineering) that had no official status or institutional support. In this article we discuss the challenges that presented themselves as we were simultaneously considered writing "experts" by faculty in these disciplines, but were unable to act on our expertise to enact changes to these programs in line with established WAC/WID best practices. 


Future Work

 

WAC/WID and WPA Studies

I am interested in continuing to do research in WAC/WID and WPA studies. Because these areas of research are often heavily contextualized and driven by the local concerns of a researcher's institution, I look forward to developing a research plan in these areas once I've graduated and am in a more permanent professional home.   

 

Professional Writing

- I have two projects currently in the planning stages focused on understanding the role of alternative technologies/work spaces in workplace writing. The first focuses on the presence and prevalence of mobile composition technologies in the workplace. The second focuses on alternative workplace strategies (AWS). These projects build on my dissertation in which I discuss the possibility of focusing attention on these two issues in order to make our composition classrooms more accessible to cognitively diverse student populations. I want to extend this line of research with two mixed-methods empirical investigations of how mobile technologies and AWS are enacted in professional workplaces and the perceived effects on professional individuals' composition habits and abilities. Specifically I hope to investigate specific writing processes, shifting between using different technologies/spaces to compose different genres/classes of writing, and the impact on collaborative writing. For these projects I will focus on identifying and recruiting individuals who identify professionally as "writers," broadly defined. This might be technical writers, social media specialists, brand management professionals, UX designers, etc.

- In addition to the two studies mentioned above, I am also interested in continuing the long history the field of professional writing has of studying the relationship between of studying the relationship between academic writing and workplace writing. Most often this relationship is studied either by investigating writing done in the academy as separate from writing done in the workplace, or workplace and academic writing get blurred by looking at students who write in professional contexts, such as internships, service learning courses, or classroom-industry collaborations. I would like to bring these two approaches together by performing a longitudinal case study investigating how individuals make the transition from student to professional, and how that identity transition affects his/her approach to writing. This case study will involve a series of data collection methods including surveys, interviews, and video observation paired with retrospective verbalization, all grounded in an activity theory framework. The subjects of the study will be upper division students focused on careers in industry. I plan to collect data 1) during the students' last year in college, 2) a few months after starting a job, and 3) a year to 18 months after starting the job. My operating hypothesis is that writing performed in the academy is intrinsically different from writing performed in the workplace, in part because of the perceived differences in student identity vs professional identity.

 

Disability Studies

Clinical and cognitive psychologists often set out to understand broadly the unique experiences of individuals with ADHD, and composition researchers often research the myriad influences on writing abilities and processes, but from my dissertation research I've found that few if any studies exist exploring the unique experiences of individuals with ADHD in composition and/or tech comm courses. I am interested in bringing these two research areas into conversation with each other. To do this I have begun planning a qualitative phenomenological study to better understand the subjective experience of students with ADHD as they go about fulfilling the composition requirements of their university-level classes. Specifically, I want to understand how ADHD affects, for better or worse, a student’s ability to complete composition tasks. Because of my own experience with ADHD, I recognize that it presents both struggles and strengths, so to better approach this question, I hope to identify what benefits these students feel they gain from their ADHD when completing composition tasks, as well as what difficulties they experience. Additionally, I’ll attempt to ascertain how these students leverage the benefits born of their ADHD, and how they cope with or compensate for any difficulties.